I walked into the new-to-me church feeling a little hesitant. It’s not that I have an issue with church per say, but it’s always a little uncomfortable walking into one where you don’t know anyone (yet).
But this church had something very special going for it. Something that had me falling madly in love with it before even stepping a foot inside the door. You’ll understand why soon.
I was greeted walking in, and walking down the hall. I was stopped a few times with kind hellos before reaching the preschool classroom to drop my toddler off. And then a few more times before making my way into the sanctuary.
The music was unfamiliar to me but the message that the songs conveyed was good. The sermon was engaging and the pastor animated as he taught on David and Goliath. I walked away with a new perspective on the “man after God’s own heart” and how we deal with our own giants.
As I walked out to more friendly greetings and introductions, it was immensely clear to me what this church was about: Loving God and loving people. And not just in word, but in action.
Church. The word conveys so many emotions, doesn’t it? Anyone who’s spent much time in church has probably experienced some good and some bad. I know I have. Both directly as an adult and indirectly as a child through my parents.
My dad was in seminary when I was born and took his first head pastoral position when I was five. By the time I was nine, he and my mom had been deeply hurt by the small town church and resigned. He left fulltime ministry at that time and has never returned.
Through the rest of my growing up years, as a family we were regularly involved in church, having moved to a new town with new jobs, schools and friends. And church-wounds, although leaving scars behind, began to heal.
And now, more than 20 years later, my empty-nest parents have moved again to a lovely mountain house just above Boise, Idaho. They both work busy jobs and have found it difficult in the last few years to find a church community to commit to.
Until now. Remember that friendly church I was telling you about? My parents started attending a few months ago and swiftly found a home there; a place where they are loved and appreciated, where they are cared for and have the opportunity to serve others. There’s a new excitement I see in them: a renewed love for God and people.
I’ll be honest, my expectations for the church body are high, and sometimes I forget that churches are made of up imperfect people. Most have really good, God-honoring intentions and vision, but they, like all of us, fail sometimes. And that’s where grace and forgiveness comes in. And sometimes the very best place to find those things – and the healing that they bring to our own hearts – is through renewed fellowship with other believers in church.
Have you experienced this sort of hurt and healing? I’d love to hear about it. Please share below or in our Middle Places: The Community Facebook Group.
One last thing: While I believe church is a beautiful, God-scripted institute, some hurts may need professional counseling, and require a break from church while healing happens. But I will encourage you to not give up on church forever. Finding a church home, where you are loved and feel free to love those around you, is one of the beautiful outflowings of the Christian life.
And if you’re ever in Denver, let me know. I’ll save a seat for you beside me Sunday morning.